When setting up your WordPress website, one of the first big decisions you face, after choosing your hosting provider, is choosing the WordPress theme. There are plenty of free WordPress themes available, but I recommend a premium i.e. a paid theme for your WordPress site.
First of all, you want to stand out from the crowd with a customized, premium theme, and secondly, you want to have a detailed documentation for your theme as well as professional support and regular updates. The best theme providers will also offer video tutorials, demo content, user forum and possibly some other services e.g. an installation service.
But not all the premium themes are worth the bucks asked for them. Some are bloated, poorly coded, insecure or just extremely ugly.
The competition on WordPress theme market is fierce, especially on those theme marketplaces which simply act as a storefront for several theme developers. With hundreds or even thousands of themes on sale, the fierce competition has in some cases led to uniform design solutions, e.g. the omnipresent frontpage slider and themes stuffed with endless features.
When you're shopping for a WordPress theme, you should look for simple, clean theme with a good color combination, great typography, and clean layout. The smaller (in size) and leaner the theme is the better. Most of the functionalities you need should be handled with plugins.
Themes vs Plugins
The WordPress theme handles the presentation part i.e. the layout, typography and color combinations. And that should be all your theme does. The plugins, on the other hand, handle all the functionality you want to have on your website.
A common analogy is your smartphone and your apps. The operating system (iOS, Android) handles the presentation (how your smartphone looks like: the icons on your phone, the system settings etc.). And the apps handle all the functionality: what you can do with your smartphone.
So when you're shopping for a WordPress theme, you should look for a theme with minimal functionalities, as all that should be handled by your chosen plugins.
Choose a theme with good layout, typography and color combination. These can be all changed naturally but choose a design which is aesthetically pleasing and modern.
Speed and Security
There are two extremely important factors you should take into consideration when choosing your theme, namely security and speed.
Security is an essential feature of any good WordPress theme with the constant bot attacks against WordPress websites.
This means that the theme should've been coded with security in mind from the ground up. Reputable theme developers follow the WordPress security best practices and have their code audited by a security auditor.
Speed is an equally important requirement for any WordPress theme as Google is favoring fast loading websites in its search engine results.
Sloppy, unprofessionally coded themes with unnecessary features are extremely bloated and very slow. You're best bet is to avoid such themes and choose a lean, fast loading theme.
Awhile ago themes with header sliders (i.e. themes that have a slider right under the navigation bar, above the fold) were dominating the market. Every theme seemed to have a header slider of some sort. This can still clearly be seen on certain marketplaces where several theme developers sell their themes.
Fierce competition has led nearly every developer to add a header slider in their theme. It is seen as a 'must-have' feature, and it's easy to fill the space above the fold with the header slider.
This is considered lazy theme designing, and the header slider is seen by many as an annoyance. The banner blindness is also making a lot of people to be completely unaffected by the message seen on the header slider.
Fortunately better design practices have emerged, e.g. the fullscreen hero image. This is a much better option to tell your visitors what are you offering.
With these considerations in mind let's see what are the best premium WordPress themes.
The minimalistic perfection. If you love minimalistic design then Genesis is definitely for you. The developers of Genesis, StudioPress, follow all the WordPress security best practices and have their code audited by the WordPress lead developer.
Genesis is actually a framework and StudioPress offers a plethora of child themes to choose from. You'll be sure to find a theme that matches your minimalistic needs.
Astra is fast, fully customizable & beautiful theme suitable for blog, personal portfolio, business website and WooCommerce storefront. It is very lightweight and offers unparalleled speed. Built with SEO in mind, Astra comes with Schema.org code integrated so search engines will love your site.
It offers special features and templates so it works perfectly with all page builders like Elementor, Beaver Builder, Visual Composer, SiteOrigin, Divi, etc. Astra is fast, fully customizable and WooCommerce ready theme that you can use for building any kind of website.
These two developers offer themes (and plugins too) that are very versatile, easy to use and your visitors will love them.
Check each theme developers product offerings by visiting the links above, and I'm sure you'll find the perfect theme for your particular needs.